LenBanks

a continuing story of trust, grace and community

Tag: sanctification

The  Beautiful Paradox

Over the years I’ve heard from many who don’t understand why so many in the Church appear to have a “woe is me” mindset. I can see their confusion, because if anybody should be joyful, it should be the Christ follower!  And yet there is a paradox that exists in our faith.

In fact there are many!  We’re already saved yet are working out our salvation. We are at the same time both in eternity and yet also bound by time. We are righteous but know full well we are being sanctified. This last one leads to the what I think is the most beautiful paradox of all. It’s the place where mourning and joy exist in their fullest at once. It is in that state where grace is realized in such beauty!

The Sermon on the Mount is a powerful and core teaching by Jesus that can be found in Matthew 5-7. The first section has become known as the beatitudes and has challenged and transformed me as I have wrestled with what seems like an impossible way to live.  We know Jesus came to set us free from the “law” and yet at first glance this sermon calls us to a life even more severe. And so one is compelled to look deeper to reconcile the apparent contradiction.

The first section of the beatitudes is where the tone is set.

““Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”  Matthew 5:3-6 NIV

I used to think of each of the Blesseds like individual traits to attain.  “I like the peace maker, but mourning, not so much.”  Sort of like a buffet.  But I’ve come to realize it’s more like a 6 course meal.  It’s not a buffet, not individual attributes that we pick and choose from, but a layering, a building to become the person Jesus calls us to.  And the first is necessary to move on to the next.

When you are poor in spirit having come to the end of yourself, acknowledging you have nothing to bring to God, it’s then you mourn deeply for the reality of sin and it’s destruction in your life. It’s then that the power of meekness, the control of yourself is able to set in. The choosing of God’s control rather than sin’s.  And at that point one is spiritually bankrupt, desperately hungering, desperately thirsting for God’s righteousness!  The promise?  We are filled. God imputes, or puts in us HIS righteousness!  Then and only the does the rest of the sermon makes sense. Then and only then can any of us begin to live the sermon out!

For example, take the passages on murder and adultery (Mt 5:21-30). It’s easy in our righteousness to live a life of fidelity and never murdering someone. Most succeed in that!  But by age three we’ve all called someone a name in anger and by 12 we’ve all lusted.  And so in my abilities I am a failure. And if we haven’t come to the end of ourselves and realized we have nothing, we are nothing apart from Christ, then we will never live the life God has made available to us through Jesus.

Do I have a purpose and potential?  Of course!  Do I have gifts I bring to the table?  Absolutely!  Are they of any value?  For this life and the common good?  Sure.  But for eternity, no!  My righteousness is nothing and His is everything!  And in His hands those gifts and potential will become something wholly different, better.

So the beautiful paradox, the sweet spot…is being both mournful and filled with joy at the same time.  Not dwelling in ashes, but acknowledging my capacity and propensity to sin.  Not “woe is me” but most definitely full on mourning.  “Woe is me” is a self-focused declaration. The mourning Jesus calls us to is recognition of our sinful condition.

And the joy?  It can and should be full-on crazy celebration!  As I mentioned earlier, the sermon can seem like an even more severe life than the law. And here is what most fail to see and even when we see it, we find hard to experience. Jesus knows we can’t. We can’t live free of anger and lust and judgement and unforgiveness!  That’s why He offers us His righteousness. That’s why mercy is given. That. Is. Grace!

And until I come to the end of me and bring my nothing to God, there is no room for grace to be experienced. And so the dance of the paradox begins. Living in spiritual poverty and the riches of Christ together is the challenge.

If you’re like me, and you are, you begin to take credit for spiritual maturity at times. You take for granted the all-encompassing nature grace must have in our lives. The longer I live in Christ the more I realize how much I need Him. The dos and don’ts are easy, grace is not. It requires dying and mourning and spiritual bankruptcy. But then and only then do we experience freedom and joy.

By the way, this why we desperately need each other!  But that’s another post.

It’s a journey and one in which I hope you find joyful mourning.

A Fitting End to an Incredible Journey

Well I did it! I ran my first marathon and on top of that I combined it with the run Disney’s “Dopey Challenge”, 48.6 miles in 4 separate runs in four days building up to the full marathon on the last day. Some people I suspect thought I couldn’t do it, I know some thought I shouldn’t. But I did. It was probably more than I should have tackled being new to running, but it kept me motivated and inspired to learn properly how to run and avoid injury. I worked real hard to be mindful to listen to my body and surround myself with people to help coach me. In the end, as I shared with my church in a message recently, A Story of Trust, Grace, and Community (you can listen here), I discovered so many lessons on community that have profoundly shaped me. It has been a wonderful experience.

But then came the weekend of the runs themselves. I got sick!

I suppose it is fairly normal as I have discovered. You train hard and kind of wear your body down a bit. In addition, these runs are during the cold/flu season, so chances are, one will get sick. I was so discouraged. I felt horrible, and in fact still do. Chest and nasal congestion, that out of body skin crawling achy feeling, weak. And I am supposed to run 48.6 miles. I considered canceling. I agonized over it. I had been adamant about listening to my body all along the way. Why stop now? And yet, I had invested so much time, and frankly money, to get here. So I did some reading from other runners about how to manage it. And most said they would run no matter what. They just had to reframe their expectations of the goals. Since my goals were never time and only finishing, that wasn’t too hard. So I just tried to stay hydrated, get as much rest as I could, and do my best without pressuring myself.

The journey wasn’t just physical here though. I had some significant God-moments. And why not? It has been my desire all along to not have this story be about me. I never wanted to become self-absorbed in this. I tired of hearing myself talk so much about running because I knew there were more important aspects of my life to be shared. But frankly, the fitness transformation has been a true God-transformation and so to share it was to share God’s story. Well here it comes, God showed up in pretty cool ways.

I had one of those nights where I woke up feeling absolutely horrible. I was half delusional in the middle of a NyQuil dose. I couldn’t sleep because my whole body was crawling and I had to keep moving to avoid the feelings. I couldn’t keep still. I was at the bottom mentally wondering why my journey was coming to an end with the goal unmet. I was desperately calling out to God to know why. As I tried to lay in bed to get rest to run the next morning, I felt a strong impression say to me, “Drink the coconut water”. (I use coconut water on long runs to hydrate and so had stocked some). I pulled myself out of bed to go get some and after drinking it, my body calmed down, the skin crawling stopped and I slept through. I determined later that despite trying to stay hydrated, with the races, cold medicine, and the extreme cold, I had thrown my electrolytes way off and was in need of hydration.

I haven’t mentioned till now that an arctic cold blast came down into Florida and so while we are standing for an hour or more waiting for the race to start, we are doing so in mid 30’s and 40’s. As I was sick, I was taking my body to more and more extremes.

So the coconut water got me through that race and then I became even more diligent to monitor that. I began to feel at least stronger in terms of that. But of course I was still sick. I got through the half marathon fairly well. Of course my times were way off their normal. But I succeeded. I tried as best I could to enjoy it, running down main street in the Magic Kingdom, coming through the castle, but honestly, I just wasn’t present enough to care. It was just get through it. runDisney’s tagline is “Where every mile is magic” and I assure you, there were no magic miles for me that day. So going into the full marathon on Sunday had me very concerned.

Thankfully the weather improved and it wasn’t nearly as cold. And I was starting to feel a bet stronger, however, still sick. I felt pretty good getting ready that morning, but the burst of energy plummeted as I got closer to the race time. As I left that morning Diane prayed with me and in her prayer asked for wisdom for me as I approached Medical tents. To pay attention and balance the goal with health. She had been a great encouragement to not give up after working so hard for so long, but of course she didn’t want me to harm myself either.

The first mile I felt awful. Seriously, I really thought I would not make it. But then all of a sudden I felt strength come. I ran virtually all the next 8 miles and even enjoyed the experience going down main IMG_6602street and through the castle. And as I ran I began to pray and wonder what lessons I was learning through this. I mean, a personal goal of completing a marathon, while lofty and impressive, won’t last for eternity. In the grand scheme, it’s not what I am about, what I have given my life to. Now I am not suggesting we don’t have such goals or that God frowns on them. Of course not, but nobody would go to heaven because I ran a marathon. My heart’s desire had all along been that God get the credit for what was being done and as I have said, He did. I don’t think He zapped me with illness to play with me. But I do think that it caused me to push on relying more on Him. If I was going to do this, I know it was because of His strength and not mine alone. And so in sharing my marathon story, I am again sharing a God-story. A story of His transformational power, the power of community and trust and grace. And maybe someone will come to know and love my God the way I do as a result. Or perhaps risk trusting Him more where they had been holding back.

Miles 9-17 were physically hard. I stiffened up and ran even slower. Had to walk more than I wanted. And it was in miles 15-17 that I hit an emotional bottom. I actually don’t remember much of it. I zoned out and just lost will to really keep going. I kept telling myself, “Just keep running”. At one point I saw the medical tent and thought, “Is it the time to give up?”. I just felt horrible! But I found myself repeating in my head, “Fight for this Len”. And it was literally in a moment that a cloud lifted. I was emotionally light and clear headed. And I began running again as if it was a new race altogether. I don’t know what it was, but I believe it was likely prayer. I saw later that people had posted they were praying for me that morning and I think it was around the same time.

Well the rest of the run I was in a good head space, now I just needed to keep going. I was concerned that I was not keeping up the time limits needed to complete the challenge. I knew I would finish the race, but thought I might be DQ’d from the bonus challenges for being too slow. So that rattled in my head a lot and got me moving. We went through Hollywood Studios, the boardwalk area and then on into EPCOT. As we ran around the world showcase, the soundtrack music had epic swells and was inspiring. The crowds were cheering and I knew I would be finishing soon. And then it happened. The fitting end!

All throughout Disney races, they have bands and entertainment venues to make it all fun. Well at the last .2 of a mile they had a gospel choir all decked out in gold robes. As I rounded the corner, I heard beautiful voices lifting high praise to God, singing,
IMG_6606
“We Worship You, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!
We Worship You, for who you are.
You are God!”

(I will post a link to the full song)

I began to raise my arms in celebration and started crying because I knew exactly that was the case. It was God who started me on the journey and it was going to end with Him being praised for His goodness. Along the way I got to do some pretty incredible things, accomplish some lofty goals, but I will never lose sight that those are all just little extras that in God’s grace I was able to experience. The real story, the real accomplishment, is that God revealed Himself once again to me, and hopefully to others, just how strong and powerful He is. He is GOOD!

Running on Grace

This morning I left the house feeling GREAT! I had just done an hour of speed work interval training for the first time with a local running club and I am wearing new jeans in a size that I haven’t worn since probably I was 25. I was walking out the path just filled with self-satisfaction that quickly moved to a gratefulness toward God. And not a false-humility, oops-I-feel-guilty-for-taking-any-credit, kind of gratefulness. I think there is a place that God allows for us to feel a joy for our part of the relationship we have with Him. But that said, I am quite mindful of just how insignificant my role is in all the changes I have gone through in the last few years.

Now that the “number”, the amount of weight I have lost, is public (currently now at nearly 210lbs), I am getting all sorts of positive comments from people. I have been getting the ‘you look good’, and ‘how are you doing it?’ sort of statements, to which I appreciate. I am human, and compliments and acknowledgement does feel good. But it has now ramped up to a level of how inspiring I am and how I have motivated people to make changes and that I represent hope. And of course I know these are nothing but well intended and I accept them as nothing but pure compliments. But I still get a bit uncomfortable with them nonetheless as the changes REALLY are not about me.

Yes, I have had to follow-through with good behavior and choices on eating and exercise. But if you have heard or read my story you know that before there was any weight loss, there was a year or more of counseling and prayer and “dot-connecting” as to why I had developed reactionary and self-sabotaging habits. God had clearly begun a deep work of heart and I have come to realize just how much I failed to trust God’s plan to deal with stress and pain and chose my plan to self-soothe with food.

And that is ALL God! I am so immensely grateful that He loves me enough to continue to reveal in me just how much I need to continue to grow and trust. The work of “forming Christ in me” is a long and beautiful process. It isn’t easy and frankly is so difficult to discern when you are trusting in Him vs self. I really was shocked when I had those numerous AHA-moments that wasn’t really fully trusting Him. But once I saw it, I knew nothing but good was coming. Such a huge weight lifted, that was greater than any amount of fat on my body.

This new stage and passion of running may not last (although I hope it does), but what will last is the ever-growing reliance on Him. When I run, it is on a “path” of grace. “Eat less, move more” is the simple lifestyle change strategy I share, but the REAL change is found in trusting God’s plan and not your own.

Again, I don’t mind the compliments (keep ’em coming), I know they come from nothing but a great place of love and encouragement. But please know there is a BIG God behind what has happened in my life. And I would love for you to join me on that run!

Your Strength Just Might Be Your Weakness

I have been really running and training a lot lately.  In the gym I am lifting heavy and on the trails I am going far.  I am, as you have read in other posts, been so excited to see just how fit I am becoming.  It’s a great feeling!  But a couple of weeks ago while running, my knee tweaked.  I stopped running at the moment and then took a few days to ice it, care for it.  But it didn’t really seem to be going away.  Admittedly I was inwardly concerned that this might sideline my new passion and I would be out of running, losing all the money invested in registrations and equipment, and worse, reaching my newly set goals.

Jumping ahead a few weeks, still running, my lower back/right hip area was a bit tender.  I just brushed it off as random body aches.  But it got worse, so I went in to see my chiropractor.  Post adjustment, I felt great and went out to run…my longest run to date.  I did a complete half marathon in training!  FELT GREAT!  The entire rest of the day I was wonderful.  But morning came and my back was so bad I could barely get out of bed.  Now I have been icing it and visiting the chiropractor.

Thankfully both knee and back are on the mend!  And it happened through something I found to be revolutionary!  Stretching!  (DUH!) I in fact had not “injured” anything.  I got too strong, worked some muscles too tightly, and let them pull my body out of whack.  The knee pain almost left entirely when my trainer helped me to identify a hamstring that needed to be stretched out.  What a relief both of pain and hope for future goals.

The back is a current malady and I am still working on it, but again, my trainer helped me to see that all my squats and dead lifts were strengthening my lower back and running was strengthening my thighs.  Both are good things and sound great.  I am getting strong.  But something called a hip flexor was getting tight and combined with my lower back muscles tightening they both were pulling my pelvis forward causing a misalignment.  He showed me a series of stretches and again, I found immediate relief.  This one is a bit more settled in so the stretching regimen will take a bit more time.  

But a lesson learned.  Getting strong is not enough!  Packing on the miles, racking up the weight, doesn’t cut it.  One has to slow down and stretch out.  We all hear about stretching, but so many, myself included, don’t give it the place it deserves.  We take short cuts, doing just a few quick ones, but the goal is to get right to the run or the weights.

So why am I taking time writing about this?  Because I saw spiritual life parallels.  

I find in my own life and have observed in many others that we have some transformational experience and it’s exciting.  We ride the wave of the new feeling, changes, and generally go forward in our new found life with confidence.  We should!  God has brought healing or new awareness, or a lingering sin issue has finally been overcome.  That is what God does in us.  And again, it feels great!

But then some twinge of pain happens and we get discouraged or we get sidelined with some sort of “fall” through destructive choices.  What do we do?  Well some, give up.  Just as in running or another sport, saying the injury took them out.  Others gut through it, still working on getting strong and ignoring the pain, the signals telling them something is wrong and should be adjusted.

I suggest a third option.  Taking to time to stretch out.  Sometimes our getting too strong too fast throws our body out of whack.  Spiritually we seek or let ourselves ascend to areas of leadership too quickly.  We get over confident in “our” ability and become self-deluded.  We do as so many in the fitness area do, we take short cuts.  We don’t take time to do the full stretch routine.  We fail to recognize it’s vital part of the process.  What is the “stretching” part of our spiritual life in my illustration?  Resting, delighting, meditating.  I am a charge ahead doer.  I recognize and relate to Christ on the go.  I see and feel Him work through me and in me as I serve and do my tasks.  BUT that doesn’t negate the necessity of slowing down and resting in Him too.  I need to not just work the muscles of faith, but stretch them out so they don’t get out of balance.

Too many seemingly strong people of faith have crashed and burned I think for this very reason.

I don’t want to overplay my spiritual application of this illustration.  But I clearly had this aha today and wanted to pass it on.  On the physical fitness track, be mindful, build and strengthen, but don’t get wound too tight.  Listen to your body and discern if the pains are the good ones from building strength or the signals to slow down and pay attention to some other needs.

Trust in the Lord and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.
Be still in the presence of the Lord,
and wait patiently for him to act.

Psalm 37:3-7a (NLT)

My life-passage here reminds me to wait on Him to act.  It’s hard to be still when you’re feeling so strong and fit.  There are times to charge ahead, to take the land, to get caught up in the “overcoming”.  But don’t neglect the Delighting, Trusting, and Being Still.  Our spiritual growth, just like our physical is a holistic and multifaceted endeavor.

This is a hard but necessary lesson I come back to all the time!  I suspect I am not alone.  

 

Thanks Runner’s World

Welcome to all of you who found your way here from the motivational bio profile that Runner’s World posted of me on their site at RunnersWorld.com

I HATE having to talk about actual scale numbers so having this posted was really difficult.  But it’s not like I was ever fooling anyone that I was significantly overweight, right?  So here we are.  I hope my story will inspire and help people, not just to lose weight or to find fitness, but to find that trusting God’s plan over your own is the best.  That really is the whole point of my story these past few years.

Weight loss and fitness are wonderful byproducts of the bigger journey I have been on.  I still struggle each and everyday to not get in my own way and gut it out with will power and obsession.  It never has worked and never will.  Yielding to God’s plan does.  Now, that’s not some cop out and letting go of responsibility.  I have worked hard, I have changed my eating and exercise habits.  I am running or going to the gym or getting on my bike nearly everyday!  But I had to find internal peace and healing first.  All previous attempts failed because I short-circuited that step.

Do I have everything figured out – NO!  That’s what we in the church call sanctification.  I am in process.  Participating with God each day to grow more like Him and let go of self-direction.

I hope you are inspired to join me on such a life!

RetroFit Ministries Shares My Story

A college buddy of mine and more recently a participant on NBC’s Biggest Loser, Ken Andrews, has posted an interview of me and my weight-loss journey.

Ken and I traveled together in a music group for our college back in the day.  He played trumpet and I sang.  We would sit on the bus together and play Rook.  I later to came to realize (through his blog and post-Biggest Loser conversations) that he was struggling with so many issues of pain that were leading to his weight gain.  Many of which I identified and was struggling with at the time as well.  It’s so sad how we mask our fears and pain and find ways to manage it that fall desperately short of God’s best plan for us.  If we had both just opened up to each other and others and experienced the grace we needed then, imagine how different things could have been.

But life is a journey, sanctification is a process, and better to find healing later in life than not at all.  Ken and I have both been doing that!  He now is an advocate for healthy living and faith and has started RetroFit Ministries with his son and fellow teammate on Biggest Loser, Austin. Check out their blog and ministry!

UPDATE:  I continue to lose weight and have now lost even more than the interview states.  I hate giving out actual numbers as it is really is embarrassing, but I felt it necessary to do so for his interview.

Exchanging What Seems Right for What is Really Right

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. Proverbs 16:25

I have heard and quoted this verse so many times in my life, but it really didn’t mean a whole lot to me because, first of all, I was already “saved” so it didn’t apply to me any longer regarding that.  And of course I was trusting God for the leading of my life – going into vocational ministry and all.

But this past few years, and especially this last, I have come to realize that I still was keeping control of so many areas of my life.  And in fact may unknowingly still be doing so.  I had developed deeply embedded coping skills to manage hurts and pains from my childhood.  And even though I would pray about it, “trust” God for His answers and help, I kept on my path thinking my ways were succeeding or enough.  How foolish and useless.  Cuz as Dr Phil says, How’s that working for you?”  My answer?  Not so well.  I still would find my responses were more like reactions.  Rather than truly dealing with issues, I would mask them or self-medicate with food.  It all seemed right.  I spoke the Christianese and I love God, so how could it not be?  But I found myself going round and round the same issues with no resolve.  For the longest time I wasn’t even aware I was even in need of some healing.  But eventually I did allow God to show me I had some issues, and once He did, I was ready to work some things out.

Praise God for His patient grace!  That we are in a process of change and becoming.  That He is wise and loving and knows we are frail and take time to made complete.  It’s easy to think we are disappointing Him and making Him mad and that He may get so frustrated with our (lack of) progress that He drop-kicks us away.  But that is most definitely not God.  He is long-suffering and His love never fails and He forgives and forgives and forgives yet again.  So if you find yourself struggling over and over with the same sin issues or patterns of behavior that don’t move you closer to God or find yourself saying, “Why does this keep happening?”, instead of beating yourself up, ask yourself, am I working my plan or God’s.  I can pretty confidently tell you it is yours!  But you need to own that and then figure out God’s.  For me it took more than prayer and Bible reading.  I needed outside sources to help me connect the dots and I needed to trust God enough to let others have that kind of access into my life, past, pains and psyche.  I think that is needed for all of us, cuz if we could figure it out on our won, we likely would have already.  But we are on our own plan that seems right.

I think it originated from Rick Warren, but at our church we say, “It’s not your position, but your direction that matters”.  And by that such amazing grace can be experienced.  Because none of us are in the “perfect” position yet, but as long as we are in the direction pointed to a desire to be like Jesus, then there should be no guilt or condemnation from self or others.  Because certainly there is none for our God.

That, however, is not license to just be a blob where you are at.  We do need to suck it up, put our big boy pants on, and lean in to being/becoming mature.  Don’t beat yourself up, but also don’t give yourself a continual pass.  Grace has no problem or conflict with effort.  The key being an effort working God’s plan, not ours.  One of the major lessons I have learned and hinted to at the beginning, is that even though I thought I was trusting God, I really had not been.  And even though God had broken open huge areas of my life, I still have not arrived.  So what else am I unaware of?  What more is God going to work out in me?  The more I trust, the more I see I need to trust.  The healthier I become, the more I see I need to become healthy.

Do I think everyone is unhealthy and has such issues?  Of course not.  But I do think that everyone has to mature and lean into maturing and that takes more and more trusting and less and less relying our ways that seem right. In that process perhaps we discover we were less healthy than we thought.  But most definitely we will all discover that we need to decrease so He can increase.  And that won’t happen until we let go of what seems right for what is really right.

Moving Towards Christ

I have observed an interesting and sad result when offering people in our church cash gifts in their difficult times.  We have a team that quietly distributes funds to various ministries and individuals as they feel led.  The individuals are told that there are no strings attached, it’s just a gift to help in a particular time of need.  The gift of course is almost always received with gratefulness.  Often with humility and brokenness.  But then over time I have seen a number of people become uncomfortable, feeling that somehow they should pay it back.  We stress it isn’t necessary, but you can see the struggle they’re going through.  And in most cases, they couldn’t pay it back anyways.  But they wrestle with accepting what they feel is “charity” and what we feel is an expression of love.  Sadly many over the years end up leaving the church shortly after the gift because they feel shame in having this obligation.  They find it easier to not be reminded each time they come to church.

I think this plays into exactly what author and pastor, Matt Chandler, brings out when he asks the question, “What moves you towards Christ?”  

That’s the question posed his new book, To Live Is Christ (chapter 5), regarding the passion that Paul expresses in Philippians and David shows throughout the Psalms.  The hunger, deep groanings, to consider all things rubbish in comparison.  He wonders why more of us don’t find ourselves in that place and then offers this as a possible reason…

“What often happens for us when we come to know the Lord—and usually it comes from a very sincere place—is that our love of God’s grace is replaced with a sense of obligation to please Him. It starts with gratitude but easily and naturally turns into trying to pay back a debt—to earn His grace, in other words. We move on to the self-salvation project so rapidly.

“Instead we need to ask a question complementary to good works. We need to ask ourselves: What moves me toward Jesus? What stirs my affections for Jesus Christ?” Matt Chandler & Jared C. Wilson. To Live Is Christ to Die Is Gain.

There is something inside of us (pride) that wrestles with grace.  We feel an obligation to try to pay back, to be on the same footing as the giver.  And yet in the case of the cross, that just will never be the case.   We will never be on the same footing with Christ.  The pot will never be equal with the potter.

I think this is perhaps an aspect of “working out our salvation with fear and trembling”.  The struggle to not let pride strip away the necessary complete abandonment to grace is part of our journey.

So what moves us towards Christ?  What motivates us to settle for just being good or better instead of being intimate with Him?    I can’t answer that for anyone else as I struggle enough for myself.

What I do know is that I want to have words like yearn, passion, burn, groan, hunger and thirst to be part of what describes my desire to know God deeply and intimately.

Prayer: God, thank you so much for your free and immense gift of grace to me.  May I receive it continually and not move towards trying to earn it in any way.  Help me to see my place of desperation at all times instead of attempting to convince myself of my own worth.  Instead may my life, by the power and leading of your Holy Spirit, be marked with a devotion and passion to bring you glory!  “As the deer pants for water” may my soul long for you.  I want to press in to more of you.

My Shortcomings or God’s Sufficiency?

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ.  Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.  God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.  So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son.  He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins.  He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. Ephesians 1:3-8 (NLT)

How do you see yourself?  What is the tape that plays in your head?  What fears drive you?  What limits do you place on yourself?  Have you disqualified yourself from even trying to step out and trust God?  “I could never do __________ because _________.”

Here’s what I see in this verse.  God loves you and chose you!  He did this BEFORE _________________ (insert limit here).

He decided in advance.  He chose before.  He loved!  Before any of us did what we did.  And yet I still have talked myself out of trying sometimes.  As if my situation is the exception.  That somehow my sin or incompetence or fear or failure is the ONE that God can’t handle.  The ONE that causes Him to step back and say, “Oh, I didn’t see that coming.  You’re right, this doesn’t apply to you.”  The ARROGANCE!  God knew exactly what and who I would be before the earth was formed and He still loved, chose and adopted me – to be holy and blameless and part of His family.

He has showered His grace and kindness.  He purchased my freedom.  These are extravagant descriptions.  These are bold actions.  These are powerful declarations and the ONLY reasonable response is to praise Him.  And look at what it says, He did this because He WANTED to and it gave Him GREAT PLEASURE!  So what do we do?  We praise Him.  We give our lives to Him!

Am I holy? No.  Am I righteous? No! Am I anything special? No.  The answer is always no, IF it’s based on me alone.  But God loved and chose and decided that I was in fact holy and righteous and special and it gave Him pleasure to shower me with kindness and grace and freedom.  “And now I get to be what I got to be!”*  

But It’s not about ME!  It’s about who God is!  

He has declared me free and all my internal exceptions are nullified.  I don’t have a case to not step into the plans God has for me.  I need to stop disqualifying myself and instead see myself as God sees me.  To live up to who He has called and allowed me to be and become.  

And instead of spending emotional energy focusing on my shortcomings, I need to spend it focusing on God’s sufficiency.  

Thank you God for your great love and kindness.  That no matter the condition I am in, you chose me in advance to become part of your family.  Thank you for purchasing my freedom!  Please forgive me for thinking that somehow I was the exception to your grace and disqualifying myself from being more available to your purposes.  Help me to focus instead on your sufficiency!

*I heard Steve Fry say this years ago and it has always stuck with me!

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